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The 10 Highlights of My Happiness Sabbatical

I start training at my new workplace on Monday. Before I start ironing my button-down shirts and go looking for my favorite pencil skirt, I would like to share some of the wonderful experiences that filled the 5-month gap on my résumé. To share a little secret with you, I call it my happiness sabbatical.


The Top 10

English: Western Sushi found at Wegmans Superm...

English: Western Sushi found at Wegmans Supermarket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Sushi. On a whim, I signed up for a sushi-making workshop and whipped up a really kick-ass California roll and cucumber roll. I attribute my success at the workshop to the wonderful instructors who cooked the rice and did all the prep work before we arrived. The rolling part may be a breeze but rice cooking is an art, even if you follow the instructions on the package.

Did you know that traditionally trained Japanese sushi chefs spend many years of their apprenticeship just fanning the rice to room temperature, before they are even allowed to stand in front of the cutting board?

Besides learning about the sacredness of sticky rice, I’ve discovered that it is possible to make sushi at home. It will be edible, but if you want your California roll to be more aesthetically appealing, you might want to leave it to the professionals, or maybe I just don’t have a knack for rice cooking.

2. Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Having went to the gardens on a Saturday during the later part of May, we missed the cherry blossoms and the other staples of springtime, but we did see the roses in full bloom among many other exquisite sights.


3. Live music. I must say that live musical performances are incredible, particularly the Gavin DeGraw/Colbie Caillat concert in Central Park. The warm and balmy air complemented the energy of the crowd so well.

Considering I arrived in the middle of Andy Grammer’s opening performance and waded through a sea of fans for the better half of it, I must say that I’ve developed a greater appreciation for cell phones. Before the invention of the cell phone, finding a friend in a crowd of that size can be likened to searching for “a needle in a haystack”.

An hour before the big race

4. The perks of road racing. Towards the end of May, I ran my first 5-K at a park in my town with a modest gathering. I took it to the next level, by signing up for a 5-mile race the next month. Despite my mom’s half-joking advice to grab the tee-shirt, help yourself to some free refreshments (not quite free because there was an entry fee), and just come home without actually running; I finished my 5-miler in roughly 49 minutes. There were about 500 participants in this race and it happens to be that one of them was a 70-year-old man who beat me by twenty seconds!

That evening, whole families were camped out on their lawns, sipping ice-cold drinks while watching a mad herd of people run past their houses. Little children were busily pouring water into cups and distributing them to endorphin-crazed runners. Some guy even attached his audio system to his bike which blasted out inspirational songs as he followed us. Neighbors and police officers were cheering us on. People even turned on their sprinklers for us. The experience was amazing and definitely worth the hamstring soreness.

5. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the sermon. I attended a Sunday service held in a movie theatre. Coffee and donuts were made available before the service began, and oddly enough, it was okay to eat and drink during certain parts of the service. This was unlike any other church I had been to. The teaching series, fittingly titled God on Film, included some very high-tech visuals that were projected onto the movie screen.

The atmosphere was super casual to the point that it’s perfectly acceptable to dispose of any unwanted paper material in the offerings basket.

The message was concise, welcoming and well-adapted to a younger audience who want to hear something more hip and relevant to modern-day living, minus any mention of fire and brimstone.

After the service, each new attender and their referrer were given a free movie ticket. A week later, I received handwritten thank-you-for-joining-us card from church volunteers, along with a free roundtrip Metrocard and an invitation to join them again. The marketing was absolutely incredible. The church is awesome (and I’m not just saying that because I got a free movie ticket). I would’ve attended again if only the commute was shorter.

A Dog with a Guilty Conscience

6. Canine majesties. The more time you spend with a friend or a spouse, the more you will understand them. You’ll soon find each other completing sentences for one another and laughing at inside jokes.

After spending so much time at home playing charades with the dogs, we have reached a better understanding of one another that may not qualify me as a dog whisperer, just yet. But at least I have become familiarized with their dainty food preferences, phobias, and their pet peeves about me which result in temper tantrums (i.e. dog sits on the edge of sofa and drops stuffed toy on floor, dog refuses to jump off sofa to retrieve toy, and barks incessantly until owner picks up toy for His Majesty).

7. Postal service mystery solved. Prior to this sabbatical, I have sighted the mailman on rare occasions – usually Saturdays and random vacation days. He was an elusive navy blue figure with a wide brimmed hat and very unsightly tube socks that go up mid-calf. Like the elves and fairies of lore, the mailman is generally unseen and unheard as the mail for the neighborhood miraculously appear in their corresponding mailbox 6 days a week, with the exception of federal holidays. While walking the dog during the mid-afternoon hours, I’ve finally discovered the mailman’s name and he happens to be a pretty cool guy!

8. Lessons in empathy. Not having a job sparked my curiosity about other careers. For example, when the telemarketer called me about making a donation, I daydreamed about being a telemarketer. A few seconds later I spat out the idea as quickly as it popped into my brain. Nonetheless, I ended the call on an unusually pleasant note, one that tried to convey some sort of compassion for people who probably dealt with more rejection and insults in a single day than some people have heard over the course of many years.

The daydreaming carried on for months to exaggerated proportions. Window shopping at the mall would trigger thoughts of being a sales representative. Even a trip to the land of the Golden Arches gave me reason to marvel at the workflow efficiency of McDonald’s and the excitement of working in a fast-paced environment.

As I weighed the pros and cons of each job description, I couldn’t help but feel more empathetic towards everyone who toiled away at whatever they did. We all face our share of challenges and difficulties. Believe me, I see it. You know what I also see? Everyone seems to be doing a fantastic job of keeping it together.

9. In praise of stay-cations. Some individuals feel as if they lead boring and uneventful lives and their surroundings are equally humdrum. I belong to this group of people. I get stuck in a certain routine, but I’m also a cheapskate who refuses to book a trip to an exotic place. Think about it this way: if you were from the other side of the globe, I’m sure you would be fascinated by this post just as I envy you for living on a tropical island. All the while my friends and family are probably snoring their way to the last line.

My point is that the grass always seems greener on the other side. But if you think about it from the perspective of standing on the other side, your life and the environment that nurtures your experiences are quite fascinating. I encourage you to explore and discover new things hidden within the familiar, which is why I took the trouble of Googling any parks, landmarks, and other fun places within a driveable distance.

With the help of my wonderful GPS, lo and behold, a waterfall a couple towns away and a nature park within ten miles of my home!

Paterson Falls

Flat Rock Brook

10. Starting this blog. Sure, there were/are moments I am tempted to trash certain posts and there was even a time when I wanted to trash this entire blog but I’ve had fun writing here. So I won’t abandon this blog any time soon.


Rest and relax can work miracles. Did I find happiness though? Not sure.

I smiled a lot. I worried a lot, too. But I also learned to appreciate people more than ever before, take in the beauty of my surroundings, and express gratitude for what I have.